Saturday, May 26, 2007

In the beginning. . .

Birth through College Years
My name is Jeff and I was born in December, 1964 in Baltimore, MD.

I think I was big since just moments after birth. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I really just liked to eat. My folks sent me to a shrink, an endocrinologist, Weight Watchers, etc, etc. None of the specialists could find anything physically wrong with me. I just had a love affair with food.

Growing up sucked. I was always the fat kid, but I loved food. I remember in third grade, 1973 or so, the teacher lined us up at the nurses door and we all got weighed. I tipped the scale at 113 lbs. The snickering went on for months and my fate was sealed.

Over the years, I had numerous attempts at weight loss. I think I tried just about every mass market weight loss program around -- OptiFast, Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Ornish, Atkins again, South Beach, Atkins the Third. Well, you get the idea. My brother even wrote Richard Simmons out of concern and love for me. Richard called me and sent me a Deal-a-Meal.

Summer of 79 was spent at Camp Shane. 7 weeks in the Catskills with lots of other fat kids. I lost 49 lbs and dropped under 300. It was the first time in my life where my weight didn't seem to matter, since everyone was in the same boat as I was. Alas, back to reality and the ping pong effect. By the turn of the decade, I was back over 300 with every pound lost found again.

High school was okay, but I was always the jolly fat kid. I decided to wrestle during my junior year. Coach Bradley said I was the only one on the team to gain weight. I don't recall winning a match.

Food had always been first and foremost in my life and my mind. I recall an overnight at my parent's friend's house -- I was probably 9 or 10 -- they had a dish of Hershey's kisses out near where I was sleeping. SCORE! I probably ate 20 or 30 of them and stupidly deposited all of the foil behind the couch. In the morning, I got snagged by Mrs. A. Then I got the lecture on where "we" put trash. (Why I didn't used the toilet to flush the evidence, I'll never know.) In high school, one of my classmates worked at the new Taco Bell in my town. After an eventing out with friends, which may have included a visit to Pizza Hut, I'd go see Louise at Taco Bell for her "buy one, get all you can eat" off-the-menu special. I'd eat a few burrito supreme's and a couple of tacos. Wash it down with a Dr. Pepper.

All in all, high school was not bad. I did have some close friends, some of which I still see and talk to 25 years later. I spent 2 1/2 years each at two different colleges. I distinguished myself as one of the more active students. I was involved periodically in student government, the school news paper, and a few other clubs. I always felt a part of things in college and I felt appreciated mostly for who I was rather than what I was or what I felt inside. Also, I was a pretty hearty partier, which explains, in some part, my multi-college experience. All in all, college was a happy time.

Working years -- After College through July, 2006
After college, I went to work for my dad's company. This was a place that I had been going and working summers for a number of years. The employees knew me and I didn't have to go through that dreaded interview process. Shortly after he sold the company, I left for greener pastures in 1990.

I began work at an environmental services company at which I still work. The woman that hired me was great, though she admitted after I started that she felt that "a nice guy like [me] deserved a chance." Translation: a nice fat guy like you deserves a chance. Over the past 17 years, the company has been good to me. I have no complaints.

You might have noticed that I haven't mentioned any "intimate" relationships. Well, there weren't any. I had women friends, but never girl friends. Self confidence was a MAJOR issue. In 93, I had moved to NJ for a job opportunity. I was in a new state with few local friends and I was tipping the scale at 415 lbs. I began to take the advice of Dr. Dean Ornish and his Eat More Weigh Less program. The program was basically all carbs, no fat, no protein. After 6 months or so, I was down more than 80 lbs. I felt great.

A woman periodically called me from the Jaycee Chapter that I was involved in, still back in Maryland. I thought she was nuts! Well, with my new found weight loss and confidence, I asked Deb out. One thing led to another and we've now been married for 11 years. (And yes, she IS nuts!) One thing we have in common, other than undying love and respect for each other, is a lifelong struggle with the scale.

Picture: Deb and I at Emeril's in New Orleans in January, 2006.

Over the years, I've lost the same 80 lbs at least 5 times, each time winding up back around where I had started. I hated my body. I hated what I looked like. My kids were now at an age where their friends would soon be talking about their fat dad. In 2006, this all changed. With each diet attempt and failure, exercise was never a component of my weight loss plan. I hated the gym experience. Actually, I was way too self-conscious to display my body in front of all of the beautiful people at the gym.

2006 -- A year of change
In early 2006, I felt like crap. I was as heavy as ever. I was busting out of my size 58 pants and moved from a 5X to a 6X shirt. (The picture at the left is from November, 2005. )

Since I had never really tried the exercise route, I thought an investment in a treadmill would be the way to go. In March, the treadmill arrived to our garage. In April, it sat in the garage. In May, it sat in the garage. Subconsciously, I knew that once it was set up and ready to go, I had no excuses.

This is a good time to introduce Dave and Jill. Dave and Jill were parents of my youngest son's preschool class mate. Deb had developed a friendship with them and we were periodically invited to their house. They are some of the nicest people I've ever met, but also the fittest. Dave is a marathon runner and Jill a club swimmer. These are exactly the kind of people that I have always assumed would have no interest in befriending me. After all, I'm the FAT GUY. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I had talked to Dave about the treadmill and he certainly encouraged me to set it up and get on it. Finally, in June, I got it in place and on July 12, 2006 I stepped on it for the first time, but not before I stepped on the scale. On this date, I topped out an an all-time high of 414 lbs. On this date, I managed 1.01 miles in just over 22 minutes.

On July 13, the next day, I told Deb that I just couldn't do it. That I wasn't going to tread and it was going to be too hard. She had none of that. I needed to give it a chance and get back on. Also, I needed to change my diet some. Just give up one thing. That was to be my dear french fries. Quite a sacrifice.

As usual, she knows best, and she did, and thank god she did.

My initial goal was to lose 30 lbs by our trip to Myrtle Beach in late August. It was slow going at first. Just a mile or two five days a week or so. After a couple of weeks, I had lost 9 lbs. Not terrible, but far from the usual diet loss of 10-15 lbs in the first week alone. I concluded that a more structured eating program was necessary. I had previously lost the usual 80 lbs on South Beach and I liked it better than Atkins as it added in some carbs: particularly the veggies that I do love.

I began tracking my mileage and weight loss from the beginning. I would regale Deb and Dave (by IM) regularly with my progress. In the mean time, Deb was losing too and began treading as well. Dave's support at this juncture was critical to my success. Here's a guy that runs 26.2 a couple of times a year and trains by running double digit mileage. He made my progress seem like a bigger deal than crossing his finish line.

By the time of our vacation, I was down 29. Oh so close, but an accomplishment nonetheless.

Vacation was different, too. I was dedicated to South Beach. Deb and I found the exercise room at the resort. We worked our plans on vacation. My only indulgence was fat free, sugar free yogurt on a few nights. (Picture of me in Myrtle Beach with my youngest son.)

Imagine my shock when I got home and the scale show a FIVE POUND GAIN! How could that happen? I was stunned, but, unlike other occasions, I was determined to reverse that course. Back on the treadmill. Within 3 days the 5 was gone again and then the pounds kept coming off. Best I can tell is those 5 lbs were the result of eating out. Lots of salt in them their menu pickins. I've had the same thing happen since and in every case, the extra lbs are gone in two or three days.

As the months passed, so too did the pounds. By the end of November, I was down 82 lbs. I had thought for several months that hitting the 100 lb mark would be impossible by year end. The fact that I'd never broken through the mid-80's was certainly a scary thought, though. By December 1, 100 was well in sight. Just had to get through that wall in the 80's.

At this point, I was up to 2.5 miles 4-5 days a week. I had broken into the 14 minute per mile range. In early December, we did a family 5k run for a local charity (picture below). I completed the course in just over 50 minutes, with the family just a few minutes behind. I was encouraged by the finish, but not by the time, since it was well off my treadmill pace. On the next day, Dave was running in a local metric marathon, which had an accompanying 5k. Since Deb was near the registration place later that day, I had her sign me up. What was I thinking -- 3.1 on back to back days? Dave was totally stoked when I told him that night that I'd be joining him, as was I. On Sunday, I cut 5 minutes off of my Saturday time, then waited with Jill for Dave to finish. It was great, but I didn't know what pain was until Monday. Everything hurt.

As the month wore on, I was losing, but not at the pace I needed to to break 100. By 12/26, I was still 6 pounds out. I cut my food intake and started to exercise for an hour plus each day. On 12/31, it was to be a happy new year as I weighed in at 314. Truly, an amazing accomplishment, well beyond any prior results.

So what happened to make the second half of 2006 unlike any other time in my life? Well, a lot of things. Clearly, exercise was a missing link. I had never done any kind of rigorous exercise for any length of time. This was new and I was actually enjoying it. Deb was in it too. She was losing one pound to every two that I lost. I've never had a partner in losing. Dave's support and encouragement was priceless. Getting compliments from every corner of my life didn't suck either.

2007 -- The Fun Continues
As the new year got underway, I did some resting on my laurels. Weight loss slowed to 5-6 lbs per month and the next milestone of breaking under 300 would not come until the end of March. I was now treading 2-3 days a week. I also found a new snack food -- nuts. I started eating them like crazy. Way too many. I saw many of the bad habits that I thought had been exorcised come back in the form of these little tasty gems. For the first time since July, I didn't make a single monthly weight goal. On the positive side, I was still losing. Deb found herself struggling too.

Dave had mentioned a 10k race held each year not far from home at the end of April. I thought that the challenge would be good for me, so I dutifully signed up. Given that I had only ever gone 5 miles just once, I should have been training for this 10k, but I slacked off and did very little training in the weeks leading up to it.

I felt like I got creamed. Though I did meet my goal of not being the lanterne rouge (the last official finisher in the Tour de France is called the lanterne rouge, or the red light as on the back of the caboose.) My time was nearly 89 minutes. My treadmill times had been running under 13 minutes per mile. Given the fact that the course is known for personal records as it is almost entirely down hill, I was disappointed. When I called Deb from the post race event, I told her that this was the most self-inflicted pain I had ever had.

What concerned me more was the next event. Dave had planned to run the Delaware Marathon on May 20 and I agreed a month or so before to do the accompanying 10 Miler. I could not imagine how I would be ready to go in just 3 weeks to do 60% longer distance.

The first decision was easy. Though there was a fleeting thought, there would be no quitting. Just preparation. After 3 full days to recover from my sore feet, legs, arms and the rest of my body, "Coach" Dave advised how to prepare. Basically, my usual weekday treads, then 7 mi the first weekend, 8 mi the next, then taper off leading up to the 10 mi. I also set a personal goal to lose another 10 lbs before the race. At that point, I had been hovering at 292, down a total of 122.

I had never been so singularly focused. The focus was helped by a couple of books that Deb bought at the kids school fair on marathon running. Although I don't think that she thought I might want to run a marathon, the 2 for 25 cent investment was too good to pass up. I began to read Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, by Hal Higdon. The more I read, the more excited I got about my training for the coming 10 mile race and really set in my mind the thought of running a marathon. I did 6.5 mi the first weekend, 8.25 the next and by the time Wed of race week came around, 10 more pounds were gone and I was busting out of my skin ready to go.

Dave and I left Saturday afternoon, picked up our packets and went off to the carb dinner hosted by the marathon producers. The dinner was my first real exposure to the running community. Although I had participated in a few events up until now, I never really interacted with anyone other than Dave. The folks I met a dinner were terrific. Truly interested in sharing their history and hearing mine. Dave also pointed out Steve and Paula Boone, who had combined to finish like 600 marathons.

Sunday was race day. I couldn't wait to go. As we walked around the starting line I ran into one of our dinner companions, who wished me good luck. As for a goal, having never gone 10 miles, I figured 2:15-2:30 would be in the right range. I really hoped to finish 10 before any of the marathoner's finished 26.2.

As the race started, my adrenalin was in full force. I was more than ready to go. At the start, I was able to jog the first 1/3 mile or so before going into my jog/walk routine that I would follow the remainder of the race. At about the 1/2 mile mark, the marathoners, who had left about 10 minutes before the 10 milers, passed us in the other direction. It was great to see Dave passing the other way, who gave me a great cheer. It's also amazing to see people out rooting for everyone. I had seen that before. What I had never experienced before is having other runners cheering you on. At one point later on, we again passed the marathoners going the other way. I couldn't believe the cheers and the offers of support. There again was Dave going the other way. He dropped me a hint about pumping my arms, even when walking. Good advice. Then there was Steve Boone, Mr. 400 plus marathons -- "way to go -- keep it up." I couldn't count all of the racers and rooters that threw encouragement my way. It really kept me going.

At the 9 mile mark, I knew I'd make it. I also knew I was exhausted and there was not much more pep left in my step. From that point, though, I could crawl across the finish line. As I approached Blue Rock Stadium and the finish line, the end was near. I talked myself into a jog at 9.8. I kept talking to myself: "It's just 2/10 of a mile. Forget the other 9.8. I can do it. I will do it. I feel great." and there was now a pretty good crowd leading up to the end. The cheers were amazing. These people who had no clue who I was were calling out my number and rooting and cheering FOR ME! It was an emotional final 2/10 and I crossed the finish line completing the longest non-stop walk/run/jog of my life and I felt like I had just reached the summit of Mt. Everest.

For what it's worth, for me, this was another monumental accomplishment. As I went through the feeding tent and sat down, finally resting my poor old dogs, I did get a bit emotional. It was at this point that I knew I'd never go back to the guy that I was. That my life had changed forever and that I couldn't wait for the next event. . .as long as it wasn't tomorrow! LIFE IS GREAT!

Now it's time to get to the finish line to watch for Dave. I stood there for about a half hour clapping for every runner that crossed. Their accomplishment seemed to mean so much more to me now. I kept looking down past the stadium for a guy in a red shirt and white cap. Finally, I did see Dave and called out to him. I gave him a high-five as he passed me on his way to the finish line. Congrats to him. Well done.
I finished 10 miles in 2:21:22, an average of 14:08 and beat my 3 week old 10k average by 10 seconds. I again avoided the lanterne rouge title but that really wouldn't have mattered today.

By Monday, I had my plan in place -- Philadelphia Distance Run half marathon in September, the Columbia Metric Marathon in December and my first marathon in the spring of 2008. I can't wait!
Today I am down 134 pounds at 280 in 10 1/2 months. Nearly 1/3 of my former heft is gone. Best I can recall, I haven't been under 300 since the Camp Shane summer of 1979 -- 28 years! I wear 44 inch pants -- down 14 inches -- and a 2X shirt. My medical progress has been equally amazing -- cholesterol down to 138, BP is normal -- hoping to go off meds this summer after two reductions this year -- resting HR runs in the low 60's and I'm no longer morbidly obese. I feel better than ever and can't wait for the next challenge. I look at myslef in the mirror and sometimes have a hard time recognizing the guy looking back at me -- but I like what I see!
Without a doubt, I owe a tremendous debt to my wife, without whom I wouldn't have made it through day 2, not to mention many many days after that! Deb has been my biggest cheerleader. Also, to my family and friends whose support and encouragement has been overwhelming: my kids, my parents, brother and everyone else that I've run into, too. Coach Dave -- what a mensch -- without Dave and his family's support, the treadmill might have been no more that the "dread tread".
I owe them all for the years that I've certainly added to my life.


Dave V said...

Truly a story of victory....on-going. Congrats on the 10-miler and your commitment to the marathon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff: I am a friend of your brother (Neil) and he sent me your blog link. I was so hooked by your story that I stopped work in the middle of the day and read every word. You are an inspiration, and I admire your heart and your commitment (and your sense of humor). Keep up the good progress, and know that even strangers are cheering you on! All best, Sharon Seal

Anonymous said...

great story and congrats! Good luck

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Glenda and I have known you since you were two years old; you and your family are our extended family. We watched you and your brother grow into fine young men. To say that we are proud of you would certainly be an understatement! You have accmplished a lifelong goal and you're still going strong, just like the drum beating bunny that sells batteries. You should feel the self pride that Tiger Woods feels when he makes a hole-in-one; congrats.
Harvey (and Glenda)

Anonymous said...

Jeff; Just finished reading your story. For me I have always seen you as an intelligent,caring and loving family man. You're still all that, but after reading your blog, it appears you're the real competitive one in the family. You look great, and most importantly you look happy; keep up the good're a true inspiration!
Herb and Aileen

Renee said...

Jeff: After watching Burt go up and down over the years trying one diet after another, success finally came after he realized that dieting only worked for him with exercise.Only he could achieve his goals, he had to want to do it. Others encourage and give support, but the work and commitment is the dieter's alone. So you are the success story here and you have achieve success because you made the committment and stuck to it. Mazel tov on meeting each of your goals and welcome to a longer and fulfilling life. Renee

Beth M. said...

Hi Jeff:Its Beth!My dad Harv, sent me your blog. I am sooo proud of you and your accomplishments. You are truly inspiring! I can relate to every word you wrote. Maybe not to the extreem, but certainly the ups and down, the disappointments, etc. I am so trilled for you. I like how you create small short goals for yourself, giving yourself constant challenges. My problem is I say I am going to weigh xx much by xx time, and instantly disappoint myself and give up. Your way is so much better.Keep up the great work. On your last picture at the race you look amamzing!!!(even sweaty)

Kelli W. said...


When you sat at our kitchen table and told us your story I was amazed and impressed by your honesty and your commitment and drive and your excitement with the results. I was in your corner.

After reading your blog, where I cried...I am so excited for you and even more impressed if that is possible. A few things are missing when you write a blog...your friends thoughts and feelings about the fact that despite all of the negative comments and feelings you got from people growing up - you have overcome all of that and not let that stand in your way of becoming a warm loving father and husband, a well respected and successful business man that will have plenty more opportunities now that your life expectancy is increasing with every pound. You remain today someone who doesn't have a chip on his shoulder about people (when you had every right to) and instead treats people fairly and with respect.

I'm really happy that what you and Deb and Dave are doing - will improve your lives together but most importantly the example you are setting for your children. I know that there will be down parts, but use all of your resources and call and scream for help if you need'll have a long line of people behind you pushing you back up if you want us to be there.

All our love and support
Kelli and Mark

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff; I'm your Dad's cousin from Pittsburgh. We were all at the Baltimore Reunion together last summer. What you have accomplished - so far - is amazing and inspiring. I know that your Grandma Geri would be beaming. You are certainly a great example for your kids - perhaps a true bonus to your efforts. I have no doubt that you will reach - and more important - mailtain your goal.

Anonymous said...

This is Ken of

You were right, there are so many us's out there. Good job.

What's the next race?

J~Mom said...

I was the jolly kid growing up as well. In fourth grade my nickname was blubber. Boy can I relate to your words!

I look forward to following your blog. Awesome job and thanks for sharing your story!!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog from Hal's interactive training newbie thread. I too am a newer runner with a goal for the Twin Cities marathon in Oct.

It is this story that I will remember when I am pushing through the longer runs. You are truly inspiring and impressive. I hope you realize this.


marie said...

WOW! I just found your blog through runners world...

i am doing my first 10 mile race this sunday and was worried - thank you for being such an inspiration.

I've only lost just under 100lbs in my lifetime but your achievements are nothing short of remarkable.

best of luck with your training!

Anonymous said...

So glad to see you've kept up the training schedule. Maybe I'll see you at a race someday - Ever get out to California?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I related to your improvements in health. I am a diabetic and for a long time I neglected self-care. I was totally off the charts. It's amazing how the benefits of diet and exercise pay off, especially in the long term of years and happiness. You saved your life! That's so awesome, congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I am here reading your story. You are really amazing and what a wonderful friend and wife you have. I am looking forward to continueing to read about your progress!

Anonymous said...

I just read your story and it's wonderful - truly inspiring. I'm just now getting back on the treadmill after a year away. I have a lot of weight to lose and after reading your story I feel like maybe I can do it too!!

Congratulations on all your amazing accomplishments!!! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

this is truly inspirational. I found your blog through a link on a runner world while I was debating whether to start running since I'm about 150lbs overweight. You have so helped me make that decision. Congrats on your accomplishments. Hopefully i'll be sharing my story with you one day.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, you are a real inspiration. I hope to emulate some of your feats. You've given me a real belief that it is possible.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Your story literally brought tears to my eyes as you crossed the finish line. I just started joggin in fall 2007. Back in May 2007 I cut out sweets (I was a big addict!) and lost a little weight. My boyfriend started to run, so I gave it a shot. I thought I would never be able to run - I have bad knees. I started with TINY goals - almost embarassingly and the pace of my jog could of had been passed by a walker, but all along I thought, doesn't matter, get the motions down and keep going! Now, I'm able to run 1.4 miles non stop and then sprint/walk the remainder of my 3.5 mile path. I am now down 41 lbs and want to lose about 60 more. I actually want to do a 5K run, but was worried about what others would think. Your story is going to get me out there for it. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff

I just read your story while eating four chocolate biscuits. I have been thinking about losing weight for the past 7 years, but have only gained. I am not a great deal overwieght, just a dress size or two, and have always found it hard to get motivated to be my best. I can always talk myself out of it after people comment that im "not that big". Your story has inspired me to just get out there and do it. I have alredy called my local gym and am signing up tomorrow, but I will start now by walking my dog. Thanks for the kick in the butt!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I just came across your blog and your weight loss success story is very inspiring.

I am just at the beginning of my journey, starting at just over 300 lbs. I have a latent ambition to run the London Marathon but know that I need to get my weight down and build up exercise gradually before I can think that far ahead.

Thanks for the inspiration,

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff, it's Lisa Brooks. I found your blog link from your Facebook page. After seeing the photos, I wondered how you had done it. I am so proud of your commitment to your health. Has given me a wonderful feeling knowing that it can be done! WOW!!!

mem said...

Makes me want to cry reading that but with joy. Can I do this??? It seems so big right now. My fifty pounds seems like 200 to me at this point. It is not the weight but the fitness I want. Thank you for the fabulous read. You have so much to be proud of. You recreated yourself what an accomplishment.

victory4angela said...

Hey Jeff, I'd never read your blog before and I saw you posted a comment over on mine. I've known you for years in the Jaycees, but since you're a little bit older ;), we haven't been in the same social circles so I didn't know you that well.

Anyway, I agree with many of these comments, you are an inspiration. Your story is marvelous and I'm glad to see that you're still competing and running races.

I've had a lot to overcome myself (with that pesky cancer last year), but you have inspired me to go ahead and reach for the next 8k and then 10k. I'm not sure I want to run 26.2, but you keep on going! Hopefully I'll see you soon at my next race!

Happy New Year!

Jaisnana said...

Hi, Terry told me about you and your blog link and now suggested I read it....I read your blog when I can.

Jaisnana said...

Oooppps, I hit the send button too fast... I am very impressed with yor story and commend you on your success. I have to lose 7 lbs and it seems like I lose the same 10-20lbs every month.. Have to use a different approach I guess.

Keep up the good work..

Anonymous said...

Very inspiring! Congrats on the progress...I too owe a lot of my success to the support of my wife. I just started a blog to help me keep it off...amazing how it changes you. I've lost 60 pounds so far and it's changing my life!

I found your site through Andrew is getting fit. Good stuff, great community:)

Jeff Honeycutt said...

whoops...not sure why I did it that way.

My name is Jeff too, sorry about the double comment!

Anonymous said...

I am the manager that originally hired Jeff many, many years ago in the environmental firm that he works for. He states that I later confided in him “that a nice guy like [Jeff] deserves a chance but what I meant was that a fat guy like [Jeff] deserves a chance.” What Jeff does not remember is that when he interviewed, he told me that other companies would not give him an opportunity because of his size. What he did not know is that I saw Jeff as a talented, articulate, smart, and very likable young man. I am not so sure that it was me who felt that “a fat guy like [Jeff] deserves a chance” but maybe it was Jeff who felt it. Anyone who has had a weight problem knows that they carry excess baggage not only on the outside but also on the inside. I am thrilled that Jeff has conquered his weight demons by following a healthy sustainable approach. No one deserves it more (and not because he was fat). He should be an icon for all of us. On a side note, I also believe that Jeff would agree that, if he can do it anyone can do it. We all need to get off the couch!

Natalie said...

AWESOME! I stumbled across your blog and it brought tears to my eyes- you are an inspiration!!

Andy said...

Hi Jeff,

I found your story while looking for motivation for my own weight loss. I just want to let you know, your journey is an inspiration!